Mage: the Awakening Pentacle Orders Primer

At first glance, the Pentacle Orders are a disparate bunch, lacking any common direction or unity. They seem to disagree about everything: what is magic? How does it work? How should it be used?

The chief factor that binds the Pentacle together, above all else, is the common enemies of the five Orders. The Exarchs, the secret masters of the world who hold humanity in bondage, and their servants, the Seers of the Throne. The Abyss, the insidious alien influence that denies all meaning. Banishers, who seek to destroy all mages and all magic. The Left-handed, who pervert magic for malign ends. Though the Silver Ladder and the Free Council might disagree about everything else, from strategy to cosmology, these potent foes provide a strong incentive to compromise and converse, to participate in Consilium and find common ground. Every Order agrees about who the enemy is… Just not how to deal with them.

One strategy the Orders do agree on is decentralization. There’s no World Headquarters for the five Orders, no national Awakened government or board handing out directives. Individuals or cabals may rise to prominence and be awarded respect and deference, but this is not structural. The history of the Pentacle is filled with examples of centralized governance falling to the Orders’ enemies, and the Seers of the Throne seem particularly adept at destroying or corrupting monolithic, homogenous organizations. Regional and local authorities are trusted to handle their own affairs, though they are not isolated. A sorcerer of any accomplishment will generally have a broad network of contacts to call on, and Consilia or Assemblies are perfectly capable of banding together – or asking for help – should circumstances demand.

The remaining tenets, described below, are more accurately the common views of the Diamond, or Atlantean, Orders. The Free Council’s engagement with them is chiefly antagonistic. They question, undermine, and dissent and, in doing so, provide a dynamic element that strengthens. They are the devil’s advocates, the revolutionary visionaries determined to show that there’s a better way. A century ago, that provoked a war. These days, Mages of the other Orders might grit their teeth and complain bitterly about the Libertines, but they’re recognized as valuable allies and contributors. Usually.

Fundamental to the organization and practices of the Diamond Orders is a deep respect for tradition. The Diamond Orders claim the inheritance of thousands of years of magical tradition, stretching back to the more perfect world that existed before the Fall. These established practices have stood the test of time, and questioning them requires a preponderance of evidence. New methods and practices can still be developed, but they must be understood in the context of what has come before. The Orders’ traditions may be at odds, but they stand united behind the idea that tradition is important.

Chief among these traditions is mystical authority. The Orders recognize that magical power derives from a deep understanding of the fundamental nature of the world. From this, they conclude that advanced enlightenment is proof of suitability to lead. This suitability is tempered by other factors in Order doctrine, but is always a consideration. How well this works is another matter entirely, and their democratic ideals make it one of the biggest points of debate for the Free Council.

Soon after their Awakening, most Mages are taught respect for secrecy. To a Mage, “knowledge is power” is a literal truth. Sharing magical lore means sharing power, and the teacher has some responsibility for the actions of the student. There’s a lot of ways magic can be used to do harm, intentionally or inadvertently, and even the most loyal, stalwart comrade can demonstrate bad judgment or possess unrevealed character flaws. And that’s without factoring in blackmail and other, subtler, forms of coercion. Even just sharing knowledge of a problem or opportunity with the wrong people can lead to a bad end if they disagree about how the situation should be handled or go rushing off half-cocked. Each Order has its own answer for how a Mage should determine when sharing knowledge is appropriate, but they often rely on demonstrated discretion and honor.

Cabals, Rights, and Rites

For an excellent discussion of the place of Cabals in Pentacle society, see Sanctum and Sigil, pp 18 – 43. The Great Rights, however, merit some additional discussion, as they are the primary mechanism for mediating interaction between a Cabal and other Cabals or solitary Mages. Not every Cabal respects every Great Right; the ones they do recognize, and the specifics of their interpretation, are detailed in a document called a protocol. A protocol can also contain lesser analogues and interdicts, additional requirements for things members of the Cabal must do or may not do.

The Right of Crossing is the simplest and most practical of the Great Rights. It says that the Cabal guarantees safe passage through their claimed territory to other Mages, provided that those Mages follow clearly-marked safe paths and refrain from offensive action against the Cabal. Few Cabals deny this right, as doing so both inconveniences other Mages – who then need to travel out of their way to avoid the Cabal’s territory – and is considered indicative of suspicious activity. Heralds often rely on Crossing to enter a Cabal’s territory to deliver news or speak to its members.

The Right of Emeritus says that the Cabal will offer respect and deference to its elders. This is not nearly as restrictive or absolute as it sounds. Cabals are given great freedom in defining those that they consider elders, though each Order has very definite opinions on the matter. At the very least, a Cabal that claims to respect Emeritus but does not extend respect to those that have directly benefited them through teaching of arcane secrets or martial protection will be considered extremely odd, if not outright liars.

The Right of Hospitality is, in many ways, an extension of the Right of Crossing. Under Hospitality, a visitor is not only entitled to move through the Cabal’s territory unmolested, he can call on the Cabal to provide him with food, shelter, protection, and essential assistance during his visit. These visits, by tradition, must not last more than three phases of the moon, and are not necessarily without cost. A Cabal that provides sustenance and assistance above the minimum may quite reasonably ask for favors from their guest (see the rite of requite, below), while a Cabal that provides the bare minimum and later discovers that to have been insufficient or almost so owes their guest compensation.

The Right of Nemesis is perhaps the most misunderstood of the Great Rights. It allows two Mages or Cabals to sort out their differences without interference from third parties – interference that could potentially escalate a feud into a cataclysm of revenge. This includes the Consilium, a Mage’s superiors in their Order, or any other outside authority. Nemesis may only be invoked against another Cabal that recognizes Nemesis or against a Mage that explicitly agrees to place themselves under its authority. A declaration of Nemesis will typically include the parameters of the feud; any action outside of these parameters is a violation of the Right of Nemesis. This renders the whole declaration null and void, potentially opening one or both Mages up to accusations of crimes under the Lex Magica. Note: all mages, even those whose cabals do not declare the right of Nemesis, respect the conceit that they do not interfere. Upholding the right only means that the cabal proclaims its right to declare Nemesis and have the right declared against them in turn.

The Right of Sanctuary, initially, seems obscure. It holds the Cabal’s sanctum to be sacrosanct – Cabal members or those enjoying the Right of Hospitality must do nothing that might invite or admit harm from outside. This begs the question: why would a Cabal not respect this Right? By omitting the Right of Sanctuary from their protocols, a Cabal allows its members considerably more leeway in dealing with their Orders and other outsiders. The short-term cost to the Cabal sometimes balances out in the long run, either for the Cabal or for individual members.

Also worthy of note is the rite of requite, under which Mages trade favors (MET: the Awakening, pp 132-133 and Sanctum & Sigil, pg 39); fostering, where a Cabal adopts a newly-Awakened young Mage until she finds her place in society (Sanctum & Sigil, pg 38); banishing rites, which a Cabal undertakes to dispose of bad luck or influences (Sanctum & Sigil, pg 39); or miscellaneous celebrations.

Consilium

The Consilium is the traditional organization by which Pentacle Mages’ police each other’s conduct and respond to external threats. Devised by the Silver Ladder in antiquity, the Counsilium is composed of five Councilors and a Heirarch. Together, these six Mages pass judgment under the Lex Magica, direct the Consilium’s response to external threats, and judge the conduct of recognized Mages. The traditional Consilium:

  • Has one Councilor from each of the five Paths. This is both symbolically appropriate, representing the influence of all five Supernal Realms, and politically pragmatic, as it allows the Orders to compete for influence.
  • Has one Heirarch.
  • Appoints Councilors or Heirarchs by a simple majority vote of all recognized Councilors and the Heirarch.
  • Allows the Heirarch to appoint Sentinels and Heralds.
  • Allows the Councilors to appoint one Provost each.
  • May have an Interfector, a Guardian appointed jointly by the Council and the Guardians of the Veil, and permitted to kill by order of the Council in the Consilium’s name. This position is contentious even in very traditional Consilia, and many superstitions and rituals surround it. See the MES Guardians of the Veil Order Primer, Mind’s Eye Theatre: the Awakening pg 110, and Guardians of the Veil pg 49 and pp 59-60 for details.
  • Has a charter, a document outlining the consilium’s purpose and claimed territory, its responsibilities, and the duties of its constituents. Charters are commonly living documents, updated in turn as the composition of the consilium shifts. See Sanctum & Sigil pp 45-46 for details.

See Mind’s Eye Theatre: the Awakening pp 38-40 and 126-133 and Sanctum & Sigil pp 43-73 for more details on these positions and traditions. Several alternative organizations exist, and are detailed inSanctum & Sigil, pp 53-55. The most notable of them is the Free Council Assembly. Devised as a more democratic answer to the problem of organizing and regulating magic, the typical assembly:

  • Recognizes one representative, called a syndic, per Cabal. Only syndics may debate and place motions before the Assembly.
  • Conducts all business by a majority vote of all recognized members, or sometimes all members in attendance.
  • May or may not recognize Sentinels or Heralds, at the whim of the Assembly.
  • Does not have a Heirarch or Provosts, though may nominate a Syndic as speaker, chair, or some other equivalent administrative lead role. The Status powers normally afforded the Hierarch are controlled by the Assembly as a whole, based on the highest Consilium Status of any members.

The political organization of a Domain should be specified in its VSS, including whether its Mages are organized under a Consilium or Assembly and any further deviation from these norms.

The Lex Magica

Each Consilia, Assembly, or other organization of Pentacle Mages has a Lex Magica, a collection of precepts and precedents that governs the activities of its members. For more detailed information, seeMET: the Awakening, pp 39-40, and Sanctum & Sigil, pp 55-63. Lex Magica vary widely from region to region, but there are a few commonalities:

  • They rarely use the exhaustive, explicit language of Sleeper law. The spirit of precedent and tradition and the enlightened judgement of the Consilium are what’s important.
  • They concern themselves primarily with subjective issues of wisdom and morality, rather than objective details of the acts committed.
  • They recognize, in some form or another, the great precepts, detailed in Sanctum and Sigil and summarized below.
  • They prescribe punishments based on the tetragrammaton, detailed in Sanctum and Sigil and summarized below.

As with political organization, deviation from these norms is reasonable and expected, but should be specified in a venue’s VSS.

Precepts

The “precepts” are simple concepts that summarize swathes of precedent and common decisions. They’re not binding laws, but are guidelines that Consilia will commonly follow in addition to the Order doctrines of individual Councilors when laying down decisions.

The Precept of Secrecy says that Sleepers should not learn of the existence of magic. Casting obvious spells before witnesses, leaving behind evidence of magic’s existence, or even speaking of magical truths to Sleepers or other supernatural beings are commonly seen as violations of this precept.

The Precept of Recognition says that the attention of the Consilium is important. Even if no punishment is meted out, the fact that the Consilium opted to mention and discuss a crime is precedent that the crime merited attention. This is the traditional basis by which Mages are formally recognized and given Status by the Consilium. This recognition comes with the presumption that the Mage will abide by the Consilium’s decisions. Consider this as it regards the section on dealing with other mages, below – under the precept of recognition, those who deny the authority of the consilium are not part of civilized society nor do they receive its full protections.

The Precept of Protectorate expands on the precept of recognition by elaborating on the importance of sanctums and territory. Attacks or trespass against recognized sanctums, territories or even influence over Sleeper society can be cause for punishment under this precept. The “property rights” of Mage society come from recognition of precedent and principles of this precept.

The Precept of Hubris is the chief principle by which a Mage’s actions are judged. It says that magic use should be governed by strict notions of morality. What, exactly, these morals are varies from Order to Order, but all agree that magic should be used in a moral manner. Many actions against the Pentacle’s enemies are justified using this precept, with service to the Exarchs or Abyss or Left-handed practice often seen as inherently hubristic acts.

The most controversial of the common precepts is the Precept of War, which allows the justification of active, magical warfare. Many Consilia do not have precedent under this precept at all, and those that do require the conflict’s scope and terms be carefully described. The precedent of this precept mostly covers war between recognized Cabals, or between Cabals and outsiders who aren’t inherently hubristic. It is an escalated – and one-sided – version of the Right of Nemesis. Sometimes Consilia require that assaults on their enemies be justified and approved under this precept… Though such assaults usually have ample precedent.

Punishments

The tetragrammaton is the list of traditional punishments that a Consilium can mete out against those judged to have committed a crime under its Lex Magica. These are ordered from least to most severe. For details, see Sanctum & Sigil, pp 62-63. The limits prescribed by the tetragrammaton are typically only seen to apply to recognized Mages. Outsiders and enemies have no such protections.

A minor or major reprimand are the least punishments under the tetragrammaton. The amount to little more than a formal acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

A payment of debt requires the Mage accused of a crime to extend a favor under the rite of requite to those they wronged.

A minor or major penance is a simpler or greater service, one demanded directly by and benefiting the Consilium.

A severe reprimand bars any Mage recognized by the Consilium from aiding the offender for a time, and often bans them from using magic.

Incarceration is a punishment for severe infractions. Given the difficulty of keeping a Mage prisoner, this is typically only used for Mages considered redeemable.

Banishment is used when a Consilium wishes to wash its hands of an offender entirely. They are ordered to depart the Consilium’s territory, either forever or for a fixed time, and may be considered unrecognized outsiders.

Spiritual scourging is a rare punishment, pronounced only for the most severe crimes. The offender’s soul is removed and locked in a soul jar for a time before being restored.

Spiritual oblivion is for the Consilium faced with an unrepentant offender, a heinous crime, and no other option. The criminal’s soul is removed and destroyed, eliminating any potential for reincarnation or further offense.

Conflict Between Mages

Civilized people don’t kill their own. At least not without some process lifting the aegis of law from an individual first – one is innocent until proven guilty, one can expect that no one can do violence against you without some sort of government sanction, that sort of thing. Mages, as any of them will tell you, are civilized people. A Mage should be extremely skeptical of those who do otherwise.
As detailed above, the precepts and great rights establish what makes a Mage civilized. A player might look at this another way: anyone who behaves according to the above are recognized and treated as People. We don’t harm People, even when they do things we don’t necessarily like. We assume they are acting in good faith and deal with them through discussion, negotiation, debate, and even argument or “civil suit”.

Most importantly, we recognize that People will disagree with us from time to time. To use the most common example: a civilized Guardian recognizes that if she harms or kills someone for doing something her beliefs say is wrong (like, say, casting a vulgar spell), then she has committed a crime. Not to say they won’t ever do it – people break laws that contradict their beliefs reasonably often in the real world – but they certainly will conceal the act, attempt to do it subtly, attempt to hide the evidence, and expect, reasonably, that society will punish them if found out. People have a sensible expectation of security in their persons and homes most of the time. Other societies (like the Seers) or outsiders (like the Tremere) are related to in a different way – but generally, mage society works from the assumption of process. To do anything else would be uncivilized.

The issue of civilized behavior as outlined above covers violence, theft, and those sorts of common-sense examples reasonably well. Mage society, however, contains certain taboo actions that are hard to classify as violence. Some individuals might at first glance, think that Mind Control or Curses are a perfect way to get what they want – no one is hurt, after all! Psychic Domination, Emotional Urging, granting me a Destiny to do What You Want ™ , are all examples of things that, to a certain way of thinking, are more ethical than violence, and thus perfectly ok to do to people.

As far as the Pentacle is concerned, that “certain way of thinking” is commonly known as criminal insanity. Mages respect the integrity and free will of others – the right to be secure in one’s person extends to one’s ‘magical person,’ if you will – one can generally assume that no one will go around attempting to control you or disrupt the spells hanging in one’s pattern (which are commonly seen as possessions). The people who do these things are immoral, and likely be seen as erratic or dangerous and punished accordingly.

The Duel Arcane

Or “how do I settle my irreconcilable difficulties with others without violence?”

As you might imagine, there are Mages who prefer to settle disputes with others formally. Sometimes there’s a disagreement that’s so deep that simply talking can’t resolve it. A gnostic revelation that ties your soul to eternal icons of the truth of magic gives most people a flair for the dramatic. Not every problem between individuals is criminal, and Mages, being independent sorts, rarely want a Consilium or Hierarch weighing in on every little dispute.

Awakened society, then, assumes the following:

  • All Mages are Enlightened. Thus, the Most Enlightened One is usually right.
  • Thus, civil disputes can be resolved with a show of magical skill, assuming all the usual ways of dealing with someone are resolved.
  • This show of magical skill should be something that doesn’t unduly harm the participants or risk collateral damage: the Duel Arcane.

This is crucial: dueling someone is the socially acceptable civil remedy; It’s the Awakened version of suing someone in civil court. If you can’t deal with them privately or peacefully, then you take them to court. Only Mage court is a squared circle, and the ‘judge’ is magical power itself, the will of the supernal. Everyone respects the right of Mages to settle disputes this way, and considers the matter between the dueling parties resolved and the outcome binding. The alternative is escalation under the Right of Nemesis or precept of war, above, which everyone would usually prefer to avoid.

For mechanical details of the Duel Arcane, see MET: the Awakening, pp 190-194, and Tome of the Mysteries, pp 118-125.

Order Status

Characters who are a member of an Order have a Status merit representing their standing in that Order. This typically includes formal recognition of rank, accomplishment, authority, responsibility, and trust, though some Orders may emphasize some of these factors more than others. For more details, see MET: Awakening pg 80, the MES rules addendum, and the section on Status in your Order book and MES Order guide. Status revolves around the Order caucus, defined for the purposes of the MES chronicle as all mages of an Order attached to the same VSS.

Promotion between ranks is as per the requirements, protocols, and practices detailed in individual Order books. Further specific details will be provided in individual Order guides and the rules addendum. The mechanical meaning of each level of Order Status, however, is common. Mages do not have to move up through the levels of Order Status one by one; if a character meets the requirements and their Order allows it, they can apply for (and be awarded) any level of Status. The only exception is Status ••••, which requires that the character spend some time at Status •••.

Status 0 characters are not members of an Order. They’re usually very newly Awakened, not yet adopted and initiated by a mentor, though sometimes they’re misfits or criminals who’ve been expelled or left their Order.

Status • characters are newly-initiated members of an Order. They’re still learning the doctrines and rules they’ll be expected to follow, and are not yet fully trusted. Only very inexperienced characters will start play at this level.

Status •• indicates a character that is an unexceptional, rank-and-file member of an Order. Once past their period of training, most Mages achieve Status ••. At this level, a Mage is trusted and responsible, allowed access to Order secrets, permitted to take on students and conduct independent operations. Most characters will start play at Status •• or achieve it soon after starting play.

Status ••• characters are experienced, senior members of an Order. Mages at this level are trusted with even deeper mysteries, given great discretion in their activities, and turned to for counsel by both lower- and higher-Status characters. In addition to the requirements from their Order guide or book, Mages seeking Status ••• must accomplish one of the following:

  • Achieve Mastery in one of their Ruling Arcana.
  • An achievement that is significant or noteworthy at a regional level. (High Approval)
  • Be acknowledged as leader of their Order’s caucus in their Domain by two-thirds of the members of that caucus, but not yet qualify for Status ••••. If this is a character’s only qualification and they lose this support, they drop to Status ••.

Status •••• characters are leaders of Order causes. They manage and train their subordinates and reach out to other Status •••• and ••••• characters from their Order to coordinate operations and share intelligence. In addition to the requirements from their Order guide/book, Mages seeking Status •••• must accomplish all of the following:

  • Have held Status ••• in their Order for at least six months.
  • Have achieved Mastery in one of their Ruling Arcana.
  • Be recognized as leader of their Order’s caucus in their Domain by two-thirds of the members of that caucus. If a character loses this support, they drop to Status •••.
  • Be the only Status •••• character in their Domain.

Status ••••• characters are a cut above. They’ve done great things, achieved national recognition for their prowess, and cemented themselves as leaders or widely influential members of their Order. At this level, a character’s accomplishments speak for themselves. Status ••••• is awarded by Top Approval, and carries the following requirements for maintenance:

  • Active play beyond the local level: on lists, at regional or national conventions, VIA private e-mail with Order members (especially caucus leaders), or whatever other methods are agreed upon between the player and the NST’s office.
  • Availability for interaction VIA e-mail with lower-Status characters.
  • Provision of mentorship and guidance for new players.
  • Willingness to work with the NST and RSTs on any necessary points or issues for the continuing health of the game as a whole and its continuing story development.
  • Responsible portrayal of, or deliberate subversion of, the canonical themes and doctrines of the character’s Order.